Depending how you count it, we are now in our seventh or ninth month of living with the corona virus.
Nine months if you are one of our elected leaders, who should have been focusing on this since January.
Seven months for everyone else, given most personal restrictions date from March.
Homework is Seven Months Late
Either way, I don’t think I can be accused of being disloyal by saying that this week it is clear the Premier’s “homework” is well over-due.
By that, I mean that well before now Queenslanders should have had clear, consistent rules about what they can and can’t do…and why.
Fear-mongering is Not Managing
Instead, our rules can change any morning when the Premier gives her daily media conferences.
I’m sorry, but I feel these made-for-TV camera-calls are all about keeping the fear levels high in Queensland when, by now, we should be handling corona-virus like second nature.
Instead, as my newsletters this year show, every week there are rule changes. Queenslanders are expected to follow every tweak and quibble or foot the legal consequences.
The inability to keep up with the changes leaves people feeling stupid as well as frightened.
Frightened, Fatigued and Confused
No wonder so many feel off balance and, well, just tired. The Premier’s system is designed to keep you that way, right up until election day at the end of October.
Take the matter of medical emergencies.
Hard Borders and Essential Workers
If you were designing hard border closures, the first decision you’d face is which essential workers must be automatically exempt.
If the hard border closure is due to a pandemic, surely the first workers to spring to mind for such exemptions would be health workers and first responders?
Not in Palaszczuk-world.
We have seen Australian doctors unable to visit cross-border clinics and Australian patients unable to receive even emergency treatment in Australian hospitals. When this cruel policy reached its inevitable conclusion – loss of life – the Premier tried to say that emergency patients were always exempt.
If they were, she was keeping it a secret. There was nothing on any of the multiple web sites providing such an exemption, for either doctors or patients.
Suddenly, there is now.
As of the September 4, 2020, there are now a number of automatic health exemptions.
You can read more here.
Disgraceful Treatment of Sick Queenslanders
There is a related issue with Queenslanders returning from expert medical treatment in NSW.
These people are going to be particularly vulnerable to COVID19 because they will all have very serious medical conditions. Otherwise they wouldn’t be seeking treatment from Sydney specialists.
The Risks in Hotel Quarantine
The Premier has been forcing them into hotel quarantines when this actually puts their lives at risk.
These patients should be able to home-quarantine, be they the two year old girl with post-operative wounds from open heart surgery or the grandmother with surgical wounds from brain surgery.
What is the Point in Locking Them Up?
Forcing them to be locked up in hotel quarantine for two weeks serves no purpose in terms of mitigating risks to their fellow Queenslanders.
But it does put their lives at risk from lack of medical supervision and limited hygiene and nutritional care.
But Not for Danii Minogue
If Danii Minogue’s claustrophobia was sufficient cause for her to be able to home quarantine, then all Queenslanders who are post-surgical outpatients should get the same consideration.
Hotel Quarantine was for International Travellers
You may recall that hotel quarantine was created in the “first wave” to deal with international travellers, who did not have an Australian home to go to. In that context, it made sense.
However, the states now refuse to take more than a few hundred international travellers each week. This means some 23,000 Australians still can’t get back home. It is a states-inflicted bottle-neck causing untold hardship.
So Why Double Down?
Having seen the problems attached to international hotel quarantines, why did the Premier then “double-down” by applying it to all interstate returnees as well?
Other States Allow Home Quarantine
The ACT – which has a much better COVID19 record than Queensland - allows home quarantine. Read the ACT quarantine requirements here.
Remember, “isolation” is for people who definitely have the virus. “Quarantine” is for healthy people who may have been exposed to the virus. Yet we are reading reports that Queenslanders in quarantine aren’t even receiving daily temperature checks. So how would they know if they are getting sick?
Other Problems with Qld’s Hotel Quarantine
In Queensland hotel quarantine, you are randomly allocated a room. Some lucky ones may get a room with a balcony, but you may not even have a window that opens. Like being on a cruise ship.
As you will be transported directly from the airport, there will be no chance to top up on cleaning or laundry supplies. You will be reliant on the hotel’s cleaning standards. I hope you have never watched “The Hotel Inspector”, where UV lights are used to show all the stains and microbes in the average room.
You will be locked in that room for two weeks, so let’s hope the former occupants didn’t develop COVID19 during their stay. You will be using the same pillows, mattress and furnishings they used.
There is a Better Solution That Works
As you can tell, I have some issues with compulsory hotel quarantine for Queenslanders returning from interstate. It treats innocent people like prisoners, not citizens with perfectly good homes to go to.
If the ACT is any guide, the same or better results are achieved by properly designed home quarantines.
Smart phones make it easy to do daily checks and anyone breaking quarantine could then be put into compulsory hotel quarantine.
In other words, we were doing better in this area back in March.
Seven months in, Queenslanders should be able to go to the Queensland Health website and print out a check-list of requirements for home quarantine. If the ACT Health department allows people to do this, Queensland should be able to do this.
No serious effort has been made to allow returning Queenslanders to quarantine at home.
It is Multiplying the Sorrows
Despite knowing we that will be living with the coronavirus for a long time, no investment has been made to develop a protocol where people can prove their home is an adequate location for quarantine.
In practical terms, this denies Queenslanders the ability to attend funerals or provide care to family members inter-state. The Premier should do the work to change this.
Pity the Country Kids
Then there is the boarding school debacle.
I have written previously about my fights to have Queensland boarding students treated fairly. Students off properties have far more likelihood of being exposed to coronavirus through a day-student at their school than they do of catching it at home.
Six Months of Slog
Yet Annastacia is stopping boarding students from NSW from seeing their families until Christmas. Students in Year 7 will still be dealing with home sickness, while students in higher grades will be having their own challenges – be it academic or personal. Young people need their families if they are to stay mentally and physically well.
As For Business – Planning Has Been Woeful
As a major tourism destination, Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Minister Kate Jones had an absolute responsibility to develop a corona virus protocol that kept our tourism businesses afloat.
Key to any such plan would have been the better management of airports – a task helped by the small number of international travellers the state is accepting. This would allow passengers to be temperature checked as they transit through airports.
Similarly, grey nomads could also have been regulated with pop-up tents at border crossings.
The Premier and the Minister have done nothing except for a puff campaign called “Queensland, you’re good to go”.
Avoiding the Elephant in the Room
This week the Premier took her cabinet to Cairns. While there she handed out money for what she called “tourism infrastructure”. Most of this had already been announced.
But she didn’t talk about the elephant in the room – her border closure means there are no tourists. Actually, it is not just the border closure to blame, it is the failure to develop a tourist entry protocol.
Package Plans for Holiday-Makers
There are many Queensland resorts that can operate in a self-contained way, be they island resorts, remote locations or the many Gold Coast resorts now fully-booked for home quarantine for AFL players and officials – and their families and entourages.
Why are there still no COVIDsafe holiday packages for interstate holiday-makers? Ones where holidaying families move seamlessly from airport to resort and back, and nowhere else.
Footballers Are Not Essential Workers – They’re A Cost
Meanwhile, the Premier has been shouting from the roof-tops her “coup” in bringing the AFL grand final to Queensland. But she flatly refuses to tell us how much that cost us.
So, when you see the AFL strutting their sporting trade as if it is somehow an essential service, remember you are probably paying the resort bills for them and their families to have a lovely break from Melbourne’s Stage Four lockdown.
That’s right – they’re coming directly to you from corona virus central and Queenslanders are paying for it.
The other business being used as a political pawn in all of this is agriculture.
Farmers and Food Are Essential
This week, the agriculture ministers refused to accept the federal government’s code for agricultural worker movements.
The code was intended to ensure that agricultural workers can be sure they can cross state borders to carry out essential works like harvesting, pruning and animal husbandry.
Let’s Not Repeat the US Mistakes
Without these workers, Australians could start to experience food shortages as we saw in the US earlier in the year. Farmers were ploughing crops into the ground while supermarket shelves in New York were empty.
I’ve seen the proposed code for agricultural workers and I can’t see what more could be added to make any measurable difference to the risk created by their movement.
They are moving from one farm to another. The farms tend to be in locations that have never had any cases of COVID.
You Jump Through The Hoops
In the meantime, Queensland has put in place another bureaucratic process for Queensland’s farmers to apply for exemptions. But as a contract harvester from Gregory told my staff this week, it is simply not worth his effort.
He would have to jump through hoops to get a permit that would only be valid until the 20th of the month, and then he would have to start again.
Only to Face the Hurdles
As my office told him, it is actually worse than that. The Premier might stand up tomorrow at her media conference and announce new rules that mean his piece of paper is worthless. There is no certainty.
The PM will try again at today’s national cabinet, but Premier Palaszczuk has already said she won’t be signing up for it.
Meanwhile – Financial Records Tumble
This is tragic in a week when the latest figures show that Australia is now officially in a very bad recession.
If you are old enough to remember Keating’s “The-Recession-We-Had-To-Have”, and the destruction that wreaked on people’s livelihoods, consider this:
In that recession, GDP contracted by 1.3 %. In this recession, GDP in the last quarter contracted by 7%. And that doesn’t cover the August Stage Four lockdowns in Victoria, so there is worse to come.
Every Australian political leader – the PM, the Premiers and the First Ministers – need to do everything they can to help us get through this with minimum fall-out.
Where Did You Leave Your Wallet?
We must demand better from Premier Palaszczuk and her ministers. Trust me, it will be your money they come for when the bill is due.
Queenslanders must stop being fearful and demand she does her homework and supplies real answers, so that sensible decisions can be made and people have certainty in their lives.
Fear is a Reaction; Courage is a Decision
A reader kindly sent me some quotes from Winston Churchill the other day. The one that leapt out was this: “Fear is a reaction; Courage is a decision.”
We cannot live in fear. Everything we do comes with a risk. Ask farmers; ask miners; ask doctors. We try to control those risks, but we accept there is always a risk.
Sensible Rules, Clearly Communicated
In Queensland, we need to see some investment in sensible risk mitigation, because this virus is going nowhere. We started out to “flatten the curve” as a way of addressing the risk that our hospitals may become overwhelmed.
No More Favourites
We did that magnificently. Now we seem to be pursuing a zero sum game that we have never been consulted about and which punishes everyone but the people the Premier chooses to exempt – such as celebrities and footballers.
It simply isn’t good enough. The Premier needs to make decisions that we can all live with and she needs to communicate the rules simply and clearly, then leave them be.
Thank You For Reading
Thanks for reading and staying up to date.
As always, I welcome any comments or information by return email.
You can raise any issues with me the same way, or by going to my website at Lachlanmillarmp.com. You can find scholarships, grants, community events and my speeches, newsletters and media releases there as well.
If You Need Help – Please Call
With life so complicated at the moment, please don’t hesitate to call my offices if you need help.
If we can’t help you, we can usually give you the contacts for the right person who can. Gregory Longreach is PH (07) 4521 5700. Gregory Emerald (07) 4913 1000.
Kindest Regards – and stay safe,
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.